I have been in cooking mode lately, and this cool weather always brings chicken gumbo to mind. I made gumbo for Christmas, and when I mentioned that to friends at work, I was volunteered to make gumbo for a little celebration tomorrow in the Children’s Health Center.
Now, I can’t pass for Cajun, but it is hard to live in Louisiana without having an appreciation for Cajun food, and chicken gumbo is not hard to make.
First, you make a roux. Many of you learned how to do this in your mother’s kitchen before middle school, but for my friends outside the Bayou State, this is how I do it.
Start with 1 1/2 cups of flour and 3/4 cups of oil (2:1 ratio). I use olive oil when I have it. Brown the flour in the oil over low heat. This requires a lot of patience and a lot of stirring to avoid scorching your roux. I like to brown my roux until it has a chocolate color. You can make your roux in your gumbo pot, but I find it easier to make it in a large skillet, then transfer it to the pot.
When my roux is good and browned, I add about a cup of chopped onion, and cook the onion until it is clear, stirring a lot to keep it from scorching. I then add 1 clove of garlic, finely minced, and cook it a little longer. At this point, I transfer the whole mess to my gumbo pot.
Add eight cups of liquid; Justin Wilson used 4 cups of water and 4 cups of sauternes wine, but I just use Swanson’s chicken stock from the grocery store. I then add 2 tsp salt, 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, and a teaspoon of Louisiana hot sauce. You could use fresh cayenne peppers, but every time I have tried it, I put too much, and the results were like liquid fire. You can adjust the amount of salt and spice to taste, but remember, once it is in there, you can’t take it back out!
I then add one pound of andouille sausage, and two pounds of chicken meat. I cook and then chop my chicken prior to adding to the gumbo, and I prefer dark meat for the added flavor.
I have made gumbo with wild duck or squirrel meat, and smoked venison sausage. Almost any game meat will do, but I draw the line at nutria in my gumbo!
Many cooks have told me that gumbo is better if it sits in the pot in the refrigerator over night, then reheated and served the next day. Serve it over rice, of course, and some folks like it with a little filé (ground sassafrass leaves for you non-Louisianians).
I am sure my Cajun friends can add other ways to make a good gumbo,but this simple method is good enough for this North Louisiana boy, and my Benoit sister-in-law thought it was great.
Give it a try–everyone needs to know how to make gumbo!
Here is my roux browning: